Friday, September 17, 2010

Higgens Network: The Town

In 2007, Ben Affleck impressed everyone with his feature-length directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. It was a very tight adaptation of the critically acclaimed Dennis Lehane novel. Two years later, Affleck is back in the director’s chair with another crime adaptation. The Town is based off of Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves, which is about a bank robber from Boston who falls in love with his former hostage.

Affleck plays the crack criminal who has grown up in the bank robbing capital of the world. He was just supposed to check up on Rebecca Hall’s character to make sure she couldn’t recognize anyone from her abduction. Perhaps he was charmed over by her or he felt guilty about her trauma but he continued to see her.

He’s worried about what his childhood friend (Jeremy Renner) who is a bit of a loose cannon. Also after their last heist there are FBI agents (Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver) tracking them down. On a completely subjective note, it was geeky awesome to see Don Draper and the Man in Black fight crime together.

Whenever the main character has a secret in a movie, it’s only a matter of time before everything is revealed. Most of the suspense is built around how that is dealt with or avoided. The Town doesn’t do anything new with this concept, but it definitely accomplishes the emotional connection and tension amongst its main characters. Renner is brilliant because he is so different than his role in The Hurt Locker. He’s really able to lose himself in this role.

The feel of this movie makes this very easy to recommend. The plot moves quickly and in an intelligent fashion. The car chases were some of the best I’ve seen in many years. I can’t remember chases scenes that focused on speed as much as the ones in this film. I was a bit disappointed that this movie wasn’t as visually interesting as Gone Baby Gone. Cinematographer Robert Elswit is typically very strong, especially when he’s working with Paul Thomas Anderson. I loved how they treated Boston as a city by depicting it as a warmer place, but then it’s difficult to understand that it is this neighborhood, which seems to have so many people tempted by crime.

Affleck has quickly established himself as a very competent crime director. He is a credited co-screenwriter and may stray a bit away from the source material, but is very faithful to their tone. As a fan of crime fiction, I welcome Affleck as a very talented director who knows how to make very memorable genre movies. Can’t wait for what’s next.

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